Bowhunting The October Lull
The October Lull and Ways to Hunt It
If you bowhunt you have either heard of, read about or experienced the October lull. That time when deer seem to vanish into thin air. There is much speculation as to why this happens and even those that say it never does. I have listed below some of the more agreed upon reasons that might contribute to the October lull in your neck of the woods and ways to help you turn this time into productive deer hunts.
PRESSURE MIGHT CAUSE THE OCTOBER LULL
By October the woods become a hub of activities. Bow hunters are making their way to their stands while others are just enjoying the lower temperatures and an evening hike. Still others may be squirrel hunting or taking advantage of the fall turkey season. Deer sense this change in activity and will alter their movement accordingly and many believe that deer go nocturnal because of all of the activity that suddenly falls upon the otherwise peaceful deer woods. This could be true for some of the herd, but for many deer, movement will continue throughout the month of October and with a few adjustments of your own you could find October to be your favorite time to hunt the whitetail deer.
Locating travel routes to and from the primary food source is the first step to figuring out the best stand location to intercept deer that may have abandoned the open fields during daylight hours in October. The deer will still use the same fields, but they will be more cautious when approaching them and may not get there before dark. Setting up a stand somewhere in the middle between the bedding area and the primary food source will help you bag your October lull deer.
HUNT MAST CROPS DURING THE OCTOBER LULL
Mast crop refers to acorns for most of us. Acorns usually begin to drop in October and deer know this. Acorns can make up 80% of a deer’s diet in the years of a good mast crop. Deer will stay deep in the woods when the acorns begin to drop in October putting them away from those common areas where they’re often seen, like the edge of corn fields. When deer begin to eat acorns and other forage foods, like persimmons and apples, they may still use the corn field but after dark. This is why you can drive by a field at dusk and see no deer and an hour later drive by and see 100 sets of eyes moving throughout that same field.
A good mast crop is great for deer, but can make it tough for hunters. When nearly every oak is dropping acorns deer don’t have to move far to get their belly. When there is a weak mast crop the hunting can be spectacular. Hunters that locate the few trees that are producing mast have an increased chance at success. This can be a great way to harvest a whitetail during the October lull. Deer instinctively keep moving while on their feet and feeding. This instinct is a way of keeping predators from sneaking up on them. When the mast crop is weak it forces deer to travel more to get their fill and if you can find a grove of oaks producing, when most are not, you have found a great place for a stand.
AGGRESSIVE WHITETAIL HUNTING
As mentioned above deer can seem to vanish come October, but they are still there and possibly moving just as much as prior months. The difference is that they have spread out. Bachelor groups have broken up and scattered throughout the October woods. This can be a great time for some aggressive tactics to harvest your October lull buck. During the pre-rut and rut sightings will go up. Bucks will travel more searching for hot does. Until then get aggressive and get close to those less active deer and score during the October lull. Locating as many buck bedding areas as you can is key. Find some secluded food sources near these bedding areas and wait for a buck to show up. It is time consuming and it takes a lot of patience but what’s new when hunting mature whitetails.
DECOYS DURING THE OCTOBER LULL
Using decoys can help pull a deer into bow range when the lull hits your woods. When the October lull is happening it’s before the pre-rut so even though decoys are considered aggressive your set up should be passive. Bucks are not feeling real aggressive yet and will tend to stay clear of bucks that might give them a fight. A decoy with a small rack or even a doe decoy can be better for hunting the October lull and will draw deer closer mainly out of curiosity.
Calls can come into play during the October lull, but should be used sparingly. A good idea is to wait until you see a deer before using the call to see how they respond. When using decoys, during the early season, social grunts or bleats work best. Rattling might be a little too aggressive, but I’ve seen bucks come into some light sparring so have them handy. If the buck doesn’t respond to other tactics lightly tickle the tines to get a response. Very soft sparring sounds is key during the October lull. Any loud aggressive rattling could send your buck into the next county.
MULTIPLE STAND SITES
Multiple stand locations allows you to move around a little to find out where those vanishing deer have gone. Using terrain features connecting oak groves such as saddles and ridges can be a great place for a stand. Deer will be abandon fields when the acorns and persimmons begin to hit the ground. Those same fields can come into play during pre-rut and rut when bucks skirt them in search of does. Ag fields begin to get some action during the late season too.
I like lock-on stands myself, but during the October lull climbing stands allows you to move throughout your hunting area. Lock-ons should be positioned for later. When deer movement picks back up these stands will be ready. With climbing stands you can enter the woods and set up where you find sign and hunt. A ground blind can work as well if your area is thick enough to hide it in.
While many hunters stay home and watch football during the lull, you should embrace the challenge and get out there. With a little work and time spent in the woods you can figure out the October lull. The deer are still there and you might be surprised how much they are actually moving around. Use these tips to figure out those vanishing whitetails and put yourself a step ahead of other hunters.
HUNT THE LULL ALL DAY
It isn’t easy to sit all day especially with little deer movement, but it is a great way to decrease midday disruption in the deer woods, reduce scent left by going and coming. Expect early morning and late evening movement but don’t be surprised if you catch a big buck on his feet during lunchtime to stretch his legs and get a bite to eat. Locating secluded food sources within short distance of bedding areas is key. That and a lot of patience.
WHAT DO DEER EAT IN OCTOBER
- Alfalfa and Hay Fields- Hay fields will attract deer especially in the evening. Alfalfa is the king of hay for deer.
- Soft mast like apples and persimmons as well as locust pods.
- Acorns- Look for early dropping acorns and you have a great stand site for a buck that will bed nearby.
- Beech Nuts- Deer love beech nuts. They will hit them if there’s enough to make it worthwhile. Look for trees with lots of nuts.
- Soybeans- Soybeans are often prime in October and will attract deer. These deer will be bedded close, so be careful.
- Corn- Standing corn provides sanctuary and food for bucks. Locate those enter and exit spots along the corn field edge.
One of the best ways to get a shot at an October buck is to learn what they eat in your area. Every year is different so put your boots on the ground. Find those places that are sure to attract some deer. Look close for sign as a big buck is often alone and leaving little sign behind. If you find a good persimmon tree that’s dropping just hunt it. Your chances are good the deer have already found it. I often look for acorns with binoculars and never even go near the tree. I climb the tree and hope a big buck comes in.
Does it work every time? No, but nothing does when hunting mature whitetails. You have to hedge your percentages every way you can and one way to not see a buck at that tree is to go in and start tromping around looking for sign you might not even be able to see.
DEER MOLTING SEASON
Deer molt in the spring and again in the fall. When a big buck changes to his winter coat and it’s still 80 degrees outside he’s going to take it easy. This has been my whole take on the October Lull for many years. An old timer told me in a matter of fact way that those old timers seem to do he said.
“Ken, I’ll tell you why deer don’t move in October. Because they’ve shed their summer coat and started to put on their winter coat.” Made perfect sense to me and I have rolled with that not only because it made sense but this old timer hunted a lot and had hunted a lot for many years. This old timer did not kill many big bucks in his time, but like me at the time, he bowhunted even during gun season and spent a lot of time in the woods so I listened.
If there’s one thing I was slow to learn that slowed my roll on killing bucks consistently is that I tried to figure it all out myself. I preferred doing that. But just a few statements like that from someone that’s been in the woods more than you can open up so much more in your hunting brain.It will help you progress. It’s like connecting the dots little by little.
Check Out Standing Corn Food Plot